RICHMOND -- An inmate slated to be executed next week for the rape and murder of a young mother has chosen to die by the electric chair, the Virginia Department of Corrections said yesterday.
Barring intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court or Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, Brandon Wayne Hedrick, 27, will be electrocuted Thursday for the 1997 slaying of Lisa Crider, 23, in Appomattox County.
Hedrick would be the first person in the United States to die by electrocution in more than two years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Virginia is one of several states that gives an inmate the option of choosing to die by injection or electrocution. Maryland allows inmates who committed the offense before March 25, 1994, to select between injection or lethal gas.
Earl Bramblett, convicted of murdering a Roanoke couple and their two young daughters, was the last Virginian to die in the electric chair, in 2003.
Hedrick's attorneys did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Hedrick was sentenced to death in 1998 after being convicted of abducting, raping and shooting Miss Crider in the face with a shotgun on a remote bank of the James River.
A co-defendant, Trevor Jones, was sentenced to life in prison.
Hedrick's attorneys are seeking a hearing to determine if Hedrick is mentally retarded.
In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional. In Virginia, those who score a 70 or below on an IQ test before they turn 18 are generally considered retarded.
A court-appointed clinical psychologist testified at Hedrick's sentencing that Hedrick had an IQ of 76.
But Hedrick's attorneys argue that taking into account a standard margin of error and the "Flynn effect" -- the increase in IQ scores over time -- there is the possibility that Hedrick's IQ may fall below 70.
Jack Payden-Travers, executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said Hedrick's choice of electrocution suggests his mental capacity may be impaired.
"Can a mildly mentally retarded individual voluntarily choose?" said Mr. Payden-Travers, who has met with Hedrick several times. "Brandon is very impressionable. He's very easily swayed."
Even Miss Crider's mother, Dale Alexander, 55, of Altavista, expressed surprise at Hedrick's decision.
"Good Lord," she said with a gasp upon hearing the news. "I have to sit down."
Despite Hedrick's unusual choice, Mrs. Alexander believes he deserved to be punished for murdering her only daughter, whom she called an "inspiration."
"We appreciate justice being done," Mrs. Alexander said. "I think he should get what he wants least."